If there's one thing to impress on you during this course, it's that in order to get the best jobs and best rates, you've got to be working with an agency. The vast majority of commercial, industrial, and major film bookings go through a talent agency.
I always recommend a SAG-AFTRA franchised agency. This doesn't mean that you need to join the union, but it does mean that these agencies are highly regulated in order to be able to legally represent union talent. This means that they can't be connected with a school or workshop--they need to make the majority of their money off of commissions and agency fees. The commission ranges from 10-20% depending on what market you are in (in the Ohio/Pittsburgh area the going rate is 20%). They also cannot require you to take photos from a particular photographer--though sometimes they may strongly recommend a specific one.
There are two main ways to get signed by an agency--by sending in your headshot (or nice, clear digital snapshots of yourself) and resume via the agency website or by mail, or by coming in to an open call to meet with an agent. Contact prospective agencies to find out when their open call is and try to come in then. This is the best way to get signed because the agents can see your look and possibly even have you audition on camera. If they have a spot in their roster for you, the agency will usually let you know right away.
There's tons of benefits to joining SAG-AFTRA--you're guaranteed a certain wage and working conditions, plus clients contribute to your health and retirement for every job you book. If you're in a major market like NYC or LA, it's definitely a benefit to be a part of the union.
However keep in mind that once you join SAG-AFTRA, you can't book any non-union work. If you live in a market like Cleveland where there's generally not enough Union work to sustain an acting career, you may be better to hold off on joining until the right opportunity comes along.
CAM Talent Agency (Columbus)
1350 WEST 5TH AVENUE, Suite 25 Columbus, OH 43212
Docherty, Inc. (Cleveland)
2044 EUCLID AVENUE, #500 Cleveland, OH 44115
*Docherty, Inc. (Pittsburgh)
109 MARKET STREET Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Heyman Talent ( Columbus)
772 NORTH HIGH STREET, Ste. 102 Columbus, OH 43215
Heyman Talent Inc. (Cincinnati)
700 WEST PETE ROSE WAY, Suite 434 Cincinnati, OH 45203
P.C. Goenner Talent Agency (Cincinnati)
10948 READING ROAD Sharonville, OH 45241
P.C. Goenner Talent Agency (Columbus)
4700 REED ROAD, Suite M Columbus, OH 43220
P.C.Goenner Talent Agency (Dayton)
1000 EAST SECOND STREET, Suite 2005 Dayton, OH 45402
Talent Group (Cleveland)
2530 SUPERIOR AVENUE, Suite 6C Cleveland, OH 44114
*Talent Group (Pittsburgh)
2820 SMALLMAN STREET Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Wilson Approach, LLC., The
1600 MIDLAND BUILDING, 101 Prospect Avenue Cleveland, OH 22115
*Can represent both SAG and AFTRA actors--all others can represent AFTRA only (or non-union)
Find the most up to date listing of franchised agencies for all markets at https://www.sagaftra.org/professionalrepresentatives.
Sample Union Rates
All rates are before 10% agent commission and from 2016 Commercials Contract. Clients also pay an additional 16.8% for Pension & Health contributions to the actor.
A commercial that runs in Cleveland for one 13 week cycle (Program Class C)
Principal Actor (on-camera) $617.71
On Camera in a group of 3-5 people $535.32
A commercial that runs in more than 21 cities (not including New York, Chicago, or LA) or sponsors a program (“This program brought to you by...”) (Program Class A)
Principal Actor (on-camera) 1st use: $671.99 2nd use: $157.11 3rd Use: $124.64 4-13 uses: $124.64 each
Voiceover 1st use: $505.04 2nd use: $122.95 3rd Use: $97.79 4-13 uses: $97.79 each
On Camera in a group of 3-5 people 1st use: $491.72 2nd use: $145.59 3rd Use: $114.00 4-13 uses $107.61 each
Adding LA to the above commercial
Principal Actor (on-camera) additional $1320.57
Voiceover additional $811.49
Cable Commercials are based on “units”-each station is assigned a certain number of units based on subscriber size (i.e. a commercial on A&E is 265 units, ABC Family/Freeform is 260 units, the World Fishing Network is 23 units). So for a commercial that runs on these three channels (548 units total)...
Principal Actor (on-camera) $2215.95 cable use only (no broadcast), for up to one year use
This breaks down like so:
units 1-50 $11.96 each, units 51-100 $10.39 each, units 101-150 $8.82 each, units 151-200 $7.25 each, units 201-548 $0.85 each
A company training video that is only shown to employees (Non-broadcast Category I)
Narrator/Spokesperson $945 first day, $519 each add’l day
On Camera Actor Principal $519.50 full day or $337.50 half-day
Voiceover $425.50 first hour $124.50 each additional half-hour
A video used for in-store promotions only (playing at a kiosk for example) or a video used in a museum exhibit, or a video playing in the lobby of a hospital (Non-broadcast Category II)
Narrator/Spokesperson $1121 first day, $647 each add’l day
On Camera Principal Actor $647 full day or $420.50 half-day
Voiceover $474 first hour, $124.50 each additional half-hour
A one hour TV episode airing on broadcast TV
Major Role $8210 for one week shooting
Day Player $933 per day
A film with a $2.5 million dollar budget
Principal Actor $3,239 per week
Day Player $933 per day
Background actor $162 per day
Negotiable-no formal SAG-AFTRA rates currently apply, but they must follow all local, federal, and state wage regulations (i.e. because a SAG-AFTRA actor is technically an employee, they must pay at least minimum wage and associated tax/health contributions).
All rates can be found at http://www.sagaftra.org/contracts.
What is a "Station 12"?
Station 12 is the name to the clearance process used to determine an actor’s status with the union. Before booking an actor for a union job, producers are required to get an actor’s social security number and have the union check to make sure they are a member and in good standing with the union. If you are past due with your union dues, that could be deducted from your wages from that job, or you could not be allowed to be hired until you pay the past due amount. If you are not yet a member of the union, you must either pay the initiation fee or take a Taft-Hartley--this allows you to work for up to 30 days on union projects without having to join. You only get one Taft-Hartley, so the next union job you booked after the 30 day period you would need to join the union (or become financial core). Read more at https://www.sagaftra.org/production-center/station12.
Current as of March 2017--check https://www.sagaftra.org/content/steps-join for up to date dues information.
New Member Initiation Fee
Annual Base Dues
1.575% of earnings up to $500K
How to join
You can join SAG-AFTRA upon being offered a union job in commercial/TV/film/industrial/VO, or after having completed three days of work as a background actor. If you work one union job and choose not to join at that time, that is your ‘Taft-Harltey’ and are now considered a ‘Must-Join’, (also called ‘SAG-eligible’ by old-schoolers) which means you have to join the union (and pay the initiation fee) upon being offered your next Union job. You may also join SAG-AFTRA at any time if you are a member of a sister acting union (Actor’s Equity Association, etc.) by simply paying the initiation fee.
SAG-AFTRA’s Dirty Little Secret-The Financial Core
We’ve talked about Taft-Hartley’s and Must-Joins and initiation fees, but the reality is that no one can force you to join a union. You can actually do BOTH SAG-AFTRA and non-union work by becoming a fee paying non-member, also called becoming “financial core” (or “fi-core”).
This means that you would pay the initiation fee and annual dues, but lose the privilege call yourself a SAG-AFTRA member on your headshots, resumes, or marketing materials, and lose the right to vote on union affairs. Fi-core members are viewed by many as “scabs” because they don’t support the union. So why would someone choose to go financial core?
Because you have the ability to do union and non-union work. Full members of SAG-AFTRA can ONLY work on union projects. In the vast majority of smaller markets, there is not enough union work in the area to justify becoming a full member of the union. In a market like Cleveland for example, some of the top actors in the area that get the most bookings are fi-core.
If you work in an area like LA or NYC, or if you’re blessed to have found a steady stream of union work, then by all means remain a full member of the union! There are tons of benefits. But in most smaller markets, the secret to getting the most amount of work is by going fi-core!
Sample Commercial Print Rates
There’s no union governing print work, so all rates are negotiable. Here are some sample rates from actual print and fashion jobs.
Photo shoot for a greeting card
$150 per hour, 2 hour minimum
$75 per hour, 2 hour minimum (kids)
Weekly print catalogue shoot
$135 per hour, 1-4 hour minimum depending on end client and job
National dental chain shoot for signage, website, print ads, unlimited length of time
$5000 flat (this was an actual job where some of the talent worked less than an hour!)
Nude shoot for national shower faucet manufacturer packaging, unlimited length of time
$1250 per hour, 4 hour minimum
Billboard for regional bank, 3 months only
$950 day rate plus $1200 usage fee
Macy’s runway show
National Park shoot for brochures, web, and collateral (marketing materials), 3 years only
$125 per hour, 4 hour minimum plus $500 usage fee